By: Hilary Thesmar, PhD, RD, FMI Vice President, Food Safety Programs, Food Marketing Institute

For retailers, “Listeria,” “food safety,” and “retail delis” are words that commonly go together.  However the FMI Food Protection Committee Listeria workgroup is developing recommendations to combat Listeria beyond the retail deli and take the proven control measures to other departments in the retail stores. 

The FMI Listeria Action Plan for Retail Delis is a very successful tool to help retailers focus on control strategies recommended by food safety professionals to have the largest impact on reducing Listeria in retail delis. The two core items and five additional opportunities for improvement are manageable and resonated with retailers without overwhelming the operations of the delis.  Additionally, the action oriented plan and short document make implementation manageable. 

Building on these ideas, the workgroup has prioritized best practices and interventions that are high-impact and relatively low effort in retail stores in order to develop the next set of recommendations for retailers to prevent and control Listeria in all food retail departments. 

The list of the new program elements in priority order are:

  1. Temperature control
  2. Controlling cross contamination
  3. Training of employees and execution of protocols
  4. Cleaning and Sanitation Controls
  5. Best practices related to a sampling plan that identifies a strategy for presumptive positive and confirmed positives
  6. Incoming ingredient management 

The first FMI Guidance for the Control of Listeria monocytogenes was published in 2006 and is still available for download.  FDA and USDA have published multiple reports and risk assessments over the years.  In addition numerous peer-reviewed research studies have been published on the topic of Listeria monocytogenes control in the food production environment, so the science is strong and we have a lot of information as resources to build upon.  

Some of the principles that we used for the Listeria Action Plan were:

  • Think differently – if something is not working, change it.
  • Take a close look at current practices.  Can it be changed?  Is it practical?  Could a small change help?

We will use these principles to build out the program elements for this new document. We welcome your ideas and perhaps we will find a few new principles to follow with some creative thinking.